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Just Because the Deceased Did Not Have License, Does Not Imply He Was Negligent: Chhattisgarh High Court

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In the case of Hemlal & Others v. Dayaram & Others, a Single Bench of Chhattisgarh High Court consisting of Justice Sanjay S. Agrawal annunciated various interpretations in regards to “contributory negligence” in Motor Vehicle Accident. 

Facts of the Case

The Claimants had lost their son to an accident that occurred in 2013. He was driving a motorcycle with his friend and had a head-on collision with the Respondent who was driving the offending vehicle. The deceased suffered severe injuries and succumbed to death on the same day. 

The police started an investigation and FIR was lodged against the offender under Sections 279 and 337 of IPC and in the charge sheet, the offence of Section 304-A of IPC was also added. The Tribunal held that there was contributory negligence by both parties, as the Offender was driving the vehicle rashly and the Deceased was 15 years old and had no valid driving license. The Tribunal awarded 50% of the compensation amount. 

The insurance company of the offending vehicle stated that since the driver was driving a “transport vehicle” without any valid permit and any fitness certificate, they cannot be asked to pay compensation. The Tribunal decided in favour of the insurance company. The claimants then filed an appeal before the High Court under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act.

Arguments on Behalf of Appellants/Claimant

There were no materials before the Tribunal to hold that the Deceased was equally responsible for the said accident. There were no materials provided by the Insurance Company to prove that no liability was upon them to pay compensation to the Claimant. The Tribunal erred in holding the amount of compensation by calculating it based on Rs. 2000 per month pay of the Deceased without considering the prospects of the Deceased. The decision violated the Supreme Court judgment in  National Insurance Company Limited vs. Pranay Sethi and Magma General Insurance Company Limited vs. Nanu Ram Alias Chuhru Ram And Others.

Arguments on Behalf of the Respondent

The Counsel on behalf of the Respondent submitted before the Court that the decision of the Tribunal was correct. Further, the Counsel prayed that the petition be dismissed.

Observations by the Court

The witness of the Claimant i.e. the friend of the Deceased, who was sitting with the Deceased on the motorcycle, clearly stated that it was the fault of the Accused driver. No rebuttal was given by the Respondent to the said statement. The argument of the Tribunal that the deceased was not possessing a driving license at the time of incident concluded to be “contributory negligence” was incorrect. 

The Court referred to the judgment given by the Supreme Court in the case of Sudhir Kumar Rana v. Surinder Singh and Others where it was held that just because the deceased did not have a license does not mean that he was negligent on his part. FIR was immediately filed against the Accused driver and no credible evidence was provided by the driver to rebut the investigation. The driver license authorized him to drive a “light motor vehicle” and the offending vehicle he was driving that day was “Tata magic” which is a “Transport Vehicle”. Since it was a light motor vehicle, the driver was authorized to drive the same on the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Mukund Dewangan Vs. Oriental Insurance Company Limited.

The compensation decided by the Tribunal was not valid and the court ordered that an amount of (Rs. 7,56,000+Rs, 70,000) with 6% interest per annum from the date of filing of claim till the date of actual payment should be paid to the claimants. As per the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the case National Insurance Company Limited vs. Swaran Singh And Othersthe insurance company was liable to pay compensation to the Claimant first and then recover the same from the owner of the vehicle and the driver.

Decision by the Court

The Court overturned the decision of the Tribunal. Further, it was held that there was no fault on the part of the Deceased and the compensation amount decided by The tribunal was bad in law. 

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